fbpx Strategic Salmon Health Initiative | Pacific Salmon Foundation
Kristi Miller Saunders
Kristi Miller-Saunders, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada Pacific Biological Station, is leading genomic research for the initiative.
Photo by Nik West

In 2013, the Pacific Salmon Foundation embarked on a remarkable partnership with Genome BC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  This partnership called the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative was started for a variety of reasons, the primary one being the high mortality rate of juvenile salmon during their early ocean migration. There is a strong belief within the scientific community that infectious disease may be a significant factor in this mortality, but not enough is known about what disease agents might affect Pacific salmon in their natural habitats. What is known comes almost exclusively from observations of cultured fish (both in hatcheries and aquaculture). The initiative intends to clarify the presence and/or absence of microbes in Pacific salmon. 

New research from the SSHI  was published September 3 in the online journal eLife . Three newly discovered viruses—including one from a group of viruses never before shown to infect fish—have been found in endangered Chinook and Sockeye salmon populations. The impact of these viruses on salmon health isn’t yet known, but we do know that two of the viruses impact the same tissues in salmon as other species, and cause serious diseases in those species. Of note, two of the three viruses were found in wild salmon, one was observed in hatchery facilities and all three were associated with Chinook aquaculture. The  paper raises questions about whether these viruses are contributing to declines in wild Chinook and sockeye stocks. Further research is required to understand the full implications of these findings.

Prior to these findings, an outbreak of Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflamation (or HSMI) was found via the SSHI in fish from one farm. The lesions in the fish are the same as those previously identified by the same histopathologist in farm audit samples collected from  farms during 2011-2013. The HSMI finding was formally reported to the industry and Fisheries and Oceans Canada as per the scientific protocol for the project and announced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada <click here for the release>. As HSMI is not an OIE reportable disease, it was not reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A slide presentation on the HSMI finding can be viewed here.

For questions about the project contact Michael Meneer at mmeneer@psf.ca or 604-664-7664

Learn more about the project and Genome BC: http://www.genomebc.ca/index.php?cID=1235

Read the press release 

Read the backgrounder